Saturday, September 6, 2014

St. Francis and the Mystery of Vanity

On October 4th we will celebrate the Solemnity of our Holy Father St. Francis.  In order to prepare for this great celebration, during these next few weeks I would like to share a series of reflections on his life, written by one of our novitiate Sisters. The purpose of this study is to introduce the reader to our Poor Clare Spirituality through the lens of the edifying life of our holy founder, Saint Francis of Assisi. 

The Mystery of Vanity

    When he was about twenty three, while he was still in hot pursuit of the glamour of the world and the nobility of chivalry, something happened to Francis.  He became ill and depressed.  The world suddenly lost its shine.  He began to wonder what there was to smile about after all.  Everything seemed futile for it no longer brought him the pleasure it had hitherto done.  His own disposition confused him.  So he turned to God as the One Who would teach him Truth.

   Few are endowed with a clear view of life from childhood.  We live on the surface of reality and first perceive the superficial values of the world.  This simplicity is innocent and good.  Indeed, if there had been no fall from grace, it would even have been enough.  Only goodness and truth would have grown from it.

   It is sin which complicates this initial clarity and confuses us.  We are selfish and we do not know why.  We reach out for empty things and set goals for achievements of little value.  When we feel dissatisfied we think it is because we have not yet attained these vain pursuits.  Thus we rapidly forget what truly made us happy.

   God provided Saint Francis with a remedy for this problem.  He brought to the surface the pain and discontent of Francis’ spirit.  He made use of the sufferings of this life to give Francis a glimpse of the superficiality and futility of those trivial things from which Francis had begun to seek pleasure and fulfillment. 

   God does the same for all of us.  A Poor Clare is called to a life of penance so that, mortified in the use of trivial things, she may begin to see the deeper value of everything.  Like Saint Francis, she turns to God as the One who can clear her eyes of dust so that she is able to perceive the Kingdom in all its beauty. 

    Through the patient endurance of the unpleasantness of discipline and suffering, she eventually comes to value these as vehicles to freedom and joy.  What she at first bore in obedience, she now embraces and seeks.  She sees herself as the privileged child and beneficiary of God’s mercy, and receives the strength and courage to weather the storm of faith which will bring her to the harbor of understanding.

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